MOUNT AIRY — When financial woes beset Sara, her husband and their three childrenlast spring, this bank saved their bacon.
And meat and potatoes.
"The Food Bank helped us tremendously last spring after my husband was laid off from his well-drilling job for six months," said Sara,34.
"We only used the Food Bank the one time," she said. "And it made a big difference for us because it helped us to keep our three children fed."
The Food Bank at Calvary United Methodist Church here has been putting food on the table for the last five years for Mount Airy-area residents who need short-term help.
"We had to take what little money we did have to pay the bills, like the utilities and the house," Sara said. "After we paid bills there wasn't enough left over to buy food.
"The Food Bank gave us enough food to last a month, and also gave us coupons so that we could go to the Food Rite andget meats and other items that we needed."
"We are here to help out in an emergency, for people who need food to get them over a roughspot," said Mary Brown, who has overseen the bank since its inception. "It is not for people to come and get food weekly."
The Food Bank is supported by churches -- Calvary United Methodist, Ridgeville United Methodist, Locust Grove Church of the Brethren, St. James Episcopal, Full Gospel and Prospect United Methodist -- and replenished asneeded by their congregation members and other community organizations.
"We have also received help from the Scouts, the Mount Airy Kiwanis Club, Mount Airy Elementary School and the Vacation Bible School classes at the churches," Brown said.
"Some folks may not feel that we have a need for one, but they are not here at the church to see the people who come in to receive the food," said the Rev. Dennis Yocum, associate pastor at Calvary.
"These are people who are caught in the cracks due to unemployment or disability," he said. "They are waiting to get into the system to qualify for food stamps and unemployment."
When the churches receive a request for food, they send the individual or family to the Food Bank at Calvary, Brown said.
"I keep 10 bags of food packed with an assortment of items, includingcanned vegetables and meats, macaroni and cheese, fruits, toilet paper and paper towels," she said.
"Each bag is packed for a family of two," Brown said. "So, if a husband and wife were in need they would get one bag, while a family of four would receive two bags."
Everyone who requests aid from the Food Bank is screened to ensure that the need is genuine, she said.
"We do have repeat visitors," said Tom Mitchell, the program director at Calvary. "But we do not want people to rely on us for their weekly food needs."
The Food Bank is open year-round and has helped about seven families a month so far this year.
Last winter and spring, requests showed the greatest increase in five years, Brown said.
"We had a much greater call for food this past winter and spring," she said. "I think it is due in partto the economy."
The Food Bank is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Donations are welcome.